Remembering the Cost of the Death of the Son of God: On the Feast of Circumcision of Christ

In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

We are keeping today the remembrance of the circumcision of Christ, and tomorrow — the feast of Saint Seraphim, and I would like to connect both these events by one phrase, one word which Saint Seraphim has spoken to one of his visitors. His visitor was in doubt whether his prayers would be heard, and what kind of prayers he could offer with the hope that God would respond to them; and his answer was, ‘Christ has taught His disciples that whatever they will ask in His name, His Father will do, but added Saint Seraphim, whenever you offer a prayer, remember the cost to God and to Christ’.

And in saying this he reminds us of the fact that Christ has acquired all power on earth and in heaven through His Incarnation into a world of death and of suffering, through taking upon Himself all the weight of it, all the agony of it, indeed, all the agony and anguish of dying upon the Cross, rejected by men and abandoned of God. And this is the price which He has paid to have power to respond our prayers.

And this means that whenever we offer prayers unto the Lord, however sincere we are, however great our need seems to us, we must ask ourselves whether what we ask for or pray for, long for, is great enough to be set in the context of this life and death of Christ, whether when we pray to Him and to His Father for the fulfilment of our deepest hopes and greatest longings, these hopes and longings, can, without sacrilege and blasphemy, in the context of the agony of the Garden on the Mount of Olives, can be set side by side with the dying of Christ upon the Cross, rejected and abandoned, or side by side indeed with the glory of the Resurrection and the Ascension. And if we long for, which we ask for or wish to ask for is unworthy of being set in this context, let us (beware/be aware) and let us ask ourselves whether we have not made our life too small for the width and height and the greatness of our vocation and our kinship with Christ and the love of God.

And we will discover that many of the things which seem to be great to us are unworthy of being put against the background of the mystery of Salvation, while many a thing which seem to be small and insignificant can be filled with love, filled with beauty, made worthy of God because it will be founded on love and filled with love.

The Baptism of Christ is the beginning of the way of the Cross. On the night of the Incarnation, of the nativity of Christ, God acted as it were one-sidedly, becoming man, delivering Himself in the frailly and helplessness of an infant to the power of man. On the day of the Baptism, the man Jesus Christ, God incarnate comes and takes upon Himself, in the maturity of His manhood, all the weight and the tragedy to which the Incarnation prepared Him. It is a feast which we must abide with fear and with awe, it is the day when Christ merges into all the consequences of sin, enters with total and final community of life: with mankind in an act of human freedom, fulfilling the freedom and the love of God.

And on that day, perhaps, should we particularly think of the words of Saint Seraphim which I have quoted. Yes, He has conquered; yes, He has become the master of all things, yes, He can answer our payers. But are we going to buy, as it were, things of the earth at the cost of the death of the Son of God or are we, as we are called, to grow beyond the smallness of things earthly, become great as our vocation is, the kins of Christ, the sons and the daughters of God and offer to God our Life and our prayers for the salvation of the world which He had so loved that He gave Himself for it. Amen.

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